Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ip Man (2008)


Master of the Chinese kung fu style Wing Chun, Ip Man (Donnie Yen), a young wealthy family man living in Foshan, spends his days honing his craft, and relaxing with his family. Suddenly his life is thrust into turmoil when his house, and wealth, is taken from him amidst the 1930's Japanese Invasion. Though when a General offers local fighters the chance to earn food via battle, Ip Man must battle moral principle, and family need.


When it comes to kung fu stars, Donnie Yen is cut of a different bread than most. Subtle, almost unassuming in his approach, Yen creates a likable, relatable, character out of Ip Man, with the help of a highly fictionalized telling of Ip Man's life.

Reminding me vaguely of the Ronny Yu/Jet Li film Fearless, Ip Man blends morality, Chinese propaganda, and action in a fun, albeit not mind blowing, cinematic effort. Wilson and Edmond put forth great effort into bringing about 1930's Foshan with great visuals, colorful characters, and exciting action sequences. Yen, whose always been a talented fighter/choreographer (see: Blade 2), is a delight to behold, and easily the film's shining element.

The supporting cast plays their way. Though often times they are caught up in rather overly dramatic subplots, some of which felt a bit soap opera in setup. I do admit that at first I worried the film would be riddled with too many throw away characters. Coming and going for only a fight or two, then leaving. Yet, Wilson and Edmond utilize the plot to their advantage and maintain many of its characters throughout. Giving, what is seemingly paper thin characters at first, a bit of time to flower. Though, none as much as our main character, of course.

As for the story: the fictionalized retelling works, in that it creates enjoyable fight sequences, and manages to bring the 1930's mindset to life. It's not a brilliant narrative. And at times it can feel a bit taxing, especially when it comes to the more "emotional" moments. Though it never flounders to the point of annoyance, keeping interest all the while.

Unfortunately the same can't be said for the film's extras. I usually don't harp on extras, but the one's taking part in this film really phone it in at times. This is most prevalent during the teaching, and group display of skill, sequences in the film. Far too many just idly make the hand gestures, at their own leisure, way off the pace set by the supposed teacher. No real rhythm, and when you're dealing with a city known for its Kung Fu dojos, the extras should look like they've at least tried.

I suppose, though, if that's all one really has to complain about, the film isn't all that bad off. No, Ip Man is a fine film that will entertain, but don't expect to be blown away.

Without the depth to make it a masterpiece, Ip Man gets by on strong fight sequences, and acceptable plot, and a strong turn by seasoned choreographer Donnie Yen. Whether or not you enjoy it likely be related to how many plot contrivances you can stand, and how much you enjoy your action.

4 better thoughts:

Will said...

I just posted a review of this yesterday. I loved it and was blown away by it. It's one of the best Hong Kong movies I've seen in years. I'm so happy Donnie Yen has finally become the star he always should have been back in the day.

Alex said...

I've heard this film is quite good but didn't know much about it. Judging from your review it sounds like I'll dig it, since I do like my action!

Loved your note about the extras- it's funny to see what background actors are doing in some movies.

Castor said...

Heard some good things about this and I enjoy watching Donnie Yen so I will probably give this a look in the near future. Good review!

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